Redefining the happy meal
Happy meals can take on a new meaning and when you know that a plateful of fruit and veggies can keep depression at bay. At least this is suggested by a study carried out on more than 2,000 men from Finland.
Mental illnesses are the new world threat in disease, with anxiety and depression being the most common. Statistics show that 8-12 percent of adults are experiencing depression at any given time. Treatment for this can be difficult and costly, plus for many people, there is a stigma attached to admitting they have a mental health issue. Hence, combating this via diet can be a low cost, embarrassment-free solution. But why is junk food a path to depression and fruits and vegetables the way to happiness? Well unfortunately, the experts are still in the dark as to the actual reason. Still, there are some plausible theories.
The headline makes it sound easy, but it is not as simple as eating junk food or eating fruit and vegetables. Consumption of these products tends to be more representative of a person’s overall dietary and lifestyle choices: Those who’s diet contains a significant amount of junk food (highly processed fare such as ready meals, desserts, processed meats, high fat and high sugar foods) are usually found to combine this with low amounts of fruit and vegetables and less physical activity. Meanwhile, people who eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables are often more active and tend to eat more whole grains and less junk. In additional to the benefits of exercise on mental health, it is this whole-food approach with its plethora of nutrients and fiber, versus the processed, nutrient-poor foods, that is said to protect against depression.
For example: B vitamins found in whole grains, nuts and vegetables optimize oxygenation of the blood and are necessary for nervous system function, with B6 being vital in the production of the body’s own natural antidepressants. Chromium, which is found in whole grains, broccoli and a variety of other vegetables and fruits, regulates blood sugar levels and the delivery of glucose to the brain. Zinc, found in wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds and cashew nuts, is necessary for brain function and is often found to be deficient in those with brain disorders. Polyunsaturated and monosaturated fats found in fruits, seeds and oily fish boost brain and nervous system function, while high levels of saturated fats and trans fats can impair brain operation. Meanwhile, phytonutrients (micro nutrients found in plants) keep blood vessels healthy and relaxed, which facilitates blood flow and helps deliver oxygen to the brain. Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables mop up free radicals that can be damaging to brain tissue and function. This is contrary to the action of refined and processed foods, which are more inclined to increase the number of free radicals roaming the brain.
This advice to dump the junk and adopt a more unprocessed food diet is nothing new, but does add to the long list of advantages in doing so. Therefore, start today and chase those blues away!
Julie Godfrey BSc (Hons) is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, full member of the British Association of Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and registered with the UK Nutritional Therapy Council. See www.foreverhealthyco.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Why burgers and biscuits can make you depressed but…. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2423492/Why-burgers-biscuits-make-depressed–eating-fruit-veg-ward-blues.html
- Fast Food linked to depression: http://www.nhs.uk/news/2012/04april/Pages/fast-junk-food-depression-link.aspx
- Depression: A Global Crisis – http://www.wfmh.org/2012DOCS/WMHDay%202012%20SMALL%20FILE%20FINAL.pdf
- UK Mental Health Org: http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-statistics/common-mental-health-problems/
- Depression Perception: http://www.depressionperception.com/depression/depression-facts-and-statistics.html#faq001
- Science Daily report: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110725202240.htm
WholeFood diet benefits:
- Book – The China Study by T. Campbell and Thomas Campbell
- Junk Food and Mental Health: http://www.mentalhealthy.co.uk/news/963-junk-food-and-mental-health.html
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